It didn’t seem like it was going to be possible for USC running back Marcus Lattimore to live up to the lofty expectations put on him before he even stepped foot on campus. We see more than a few highly touted high school recruits fail to come even close to living up to the hype surrounding their recruiting.
Then you have those big time recruits that are oozing with talent and end up being cancers on the team because of a bad attitude or bad behavior. They end up suspended, in jail or off the team within two or three years.
It’s a long list of players and USC has seen more than its fair share of them in the past couple of decades.
Lattimore isn’t on that list. Not by a long shot.
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I’m not sure the not even the most optimistic Gamecock fan expected this kind of production out of the former Byrnes High School star. So far this season Lattimore has 722 rushing yards with 11 touchdowns and another 240 yards receiving with two touchdowns.
These are impressive numbers, especially considering Lattimore missed half of the Kentucky game and all of the Vanderbilt game with an ankle injury.
And it’s not like he’s padding his stats against weak competition. Lattimore had 182 yards rushing against Georgia, 93 against then top ranked Alabama and 184 last week against Tennessee.
Lattimore’s next touchdown will give him the school record for most by a freshman and he needs seven more to tie the SEC record set by Tennessee’s Reggie Cobb in 1990.
Lattimore needs just 122 more rushing yards to pass Thomas Dendy (1982) for the most by a USC freshman. He needs 278 more yards to become the first Gamecock to top 1,000 yards since Derek Watson in 2000 (1,066). Only six running backs in USC’s 100 plus year history have topped the 1,000 yard mark. Heisman winner George Rogers did it three times (1978, ‘79, ‘80) and Kevin Long (’75), Clarence Williams (’75), Harold Green (’87), Duce Staley (’96) and Watson all did it once.
Not to be lost in Lattimore’s impressive season is the fact he’s also the consummate team first guy. We see so many of these super hyped athletes walk around with a big sense of entitlement and a small commitment level. That is not the case with Lattimore. He didn’t want the starting job handed to him, he wanted to earn it.
Steve Spurrier has said repeatedly that Lattimore is one guy he doesn’t have to worry about the success going to his head. Many freshman are kept away from the media because of their youth and inexperience and their tendency to say the wrong thing, they are protected until they mature. Lattimore speaks to the media before and after every game and has been more accessible than almost any player on the team.
Lattimore is the most complete player, both on and off the field, that USC has ever recruited. I’m not saying he’s the most talented, just the most complete. There’s no baggage with this guy, just a winning attitude and a pile of impressive stats.